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Everyday Health: Discover the Unusual Secrets to Longevity

Health and beauty tend to go hand in hand. We see beautiful people and assume they hold the key to a long and healthy life, and as they age without a wrinkle in sight, we become increasingly determined to shake their secrets out of them. Glowing skin, white and straight teeth, and a body like an eighteen-year old even though they’re well over forty; it’s difficult not to envy them, but is it really that much about lifestyle secrets as it is about genetics?

Happy life

I’ve found a few of the people who lived long and beautiful lives and tried to patch together their daily habits to make sense of it all. Mix and match as you please, come up with your own recipe for health and beauty – and if you do live forever, please share your secrets with us in return.

Happiness and cookies

The oldest person until she passed in April this year was Emma Morano – she made it to the ripe age of 117 and was more than happy to share her views on this extraordinary longevity. As the main reason, she pointed out that she ended an unhappy marriage while she was still young as she didn’t want anyone to control her.

In fact, she considered the decision to end her marriage back in 1938 to be the secret to her long life – in addition to eating two raw eggs per day and as many cookies as she pleased. It’s quite clear that living life the way you want to will bring you a lot more happiness in life. Even if you don’t grow as old and wise as her, you can enjoy the freedom and joy of knowing that you’re living according to yourself and not allow anyone to dominate you.

Find this kind of happiness with your current partner, continue to develop your relationship and support each other – or just break off a toxic relationship and sleep with a cookie jar by your bed as Morano did.

Olive oil and port wine

Is it strange that a lot of these centurions come from a small town in Italy? Perhaps not; the Mediterranean diet has received a lot of attention the last decade and is rich in healthy oils, olives, tomatoes, and fish.

Regardless of this, the people who outlived most of their peers were not particularly fanatic about their health or diet. Some of them point out that a cheerful mind and living without resentment is the key, as the lady above also seemed to believe, and their diets were usually free from the foods they disliked and filled with the kind they loved.

Perhaps happiness is the key to keeping the doctor away – rather than eating apples, that is. Save yourself the medical bills and the risk you run if a bank turns you down, and fill yourself a large glass of joy and freedom instead.

Jeanne Calment has made it to 122, and apparently took up fencing at the age of 85 and continued to ride her bicycle until her 100th birthday. Still, she didn’t fancy herself as particularly athletic, she smoked cigarettes for 100 years in total, and consumed quantities of chocolate and wine every week.

If you asked her yourself, she wouldn’t necessarily point to cycling, fencing or even wine as the reason to her longevity; olive oil, she said, has kept her young on the inside as well as the outside. Sounds like she lived a full life of nice wine, soothing oils – and a lot of cigarettes, apparently, which probably kept her happy.

Never marry and work hard

Again, another individualist outlived all of those married couples. Jessie Gallan lived to be 109 and enjoyed all of her years as a single and busy gal, starting to work at the age of 13 and eating porridge almost every day. Men are more trouble than they’re worth, she said and preferred to spend her time the way she liked it, with plenty of exercise and a busy schedule.

To stay busy and active is something that a lot of centurions recommend; when we get old, it’s easy to succumb to routines and let other people take care of everything for you. Keep your brain active, enjoy what you do, and don’t let anybody get in your way of working as hard as you like, and you may very well live to tell the same story as her.

A happy marriage

Although some people who live to be ridiculously old have named independence to be a main factor behind the years they were given, some old couples point to each other instead. Charlotte and John Henderson have both lived to reach 102 and 104 years old and are quite certain that their happy marriage has helped them to stay healthy. After John had retired, they’ve been traveling a lot and kept busy – which they’re sure has contributed to their current health.

This may very well be, and research has found that older men who continue to live with their spouse can gain a lot of health benefits – for some reason, this doesn’t apply to women who benefit more from living alone. So far, the message is clear; eat what you want, crack a raw egg or two during the day, and find a partner who makes you smile – if not, ditch him for your girlfriends instead. It will make you happier.

Be kind and don’t drink or smoke

Luckily, some of the older generation advises us not to drink or smoke – finally an advice that sounds like something our doctor would say. Gertrude Weaver, who lived to be 116, said that her secret to a long and healthy life was simply to be kind to others; “treat people right and be nice to others.”

Love life

The fastest route to happiness is, as we know, to make other people happy – and while some of us need to get this confirmed by the all-knowing Internet, others have lived a kind and friendly life without giving it much thought. Helping each other and being kind comes naturally to people – yet, the modern day preaches individualism and to put your own needs first. It’s all kind of confusing, so it’s better to listen to the advice of the older generation and start to put a smile on other people’s faces.

She also pointed out that withstanding from alcohol and cigarettes have kept chronic illnesses at bay – which again meant that she could focus on others rather than her own problems. It’s kind of a nice thought, come to think of it; stay healthy not to let illnesses get in your way of paying attention to the needs of others.

Genetics do have a lot to say when it comes to how long we’re going to live, and life can be half as short as theirs while still being happy and fulfilled. We love to live, though, and these odd habits and insightful reflections on how they lived theirs can be both amusing and eye-opening to read – even if living long has more to do with winning the genetic lottery than running mile after mile on the treadmill.

The bottom line of their message is to live it your way, treat others well, and keep a balanced life. It’s not as much about eating right as it is to be happy – and a diet that is natural to us will often include a lot of plants and water in anyway. Eat what brings you joy, exercise to feel good, and make an honest attempt at helping others every day of your life.